by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JUNE 2, 2016: 

Edward Said’s 1978 book, Orientalism, dramatically shifted how people think about the production of knowledge and representations of the Other. His ideas have been championed and critiqued with dozens of books expanding his work on the construction of the East in western imagination. However, very rarely have we investigated the dual move of representing the Other and self-representation from the other perspective. In his new book, Arab Occidentalism: Images of America in the Middle East (I.B.Tauris, 2015), Eid Mohamed, Assistant Professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, has undertaken this task.

With great success he offers a portrait of the shifting attitudes towards America and American Culture in the Arab imagination in the post 9/11 media landscape. He found that Arab cultural producers have a complicated relationship with America, seeing it as problematic while also often representative of their own values. Mohamed delineates how this debate unfolds in literature, cinema, and news media. In our conversation we explored the dynamics of Occidentalism through Arabic novels about Egyptians living abroad in the United States, news depictions of the 2008 shoe throwing event with President George W. Bush in Iraq, the reactions to the election of Barack Obama, the Egyptian film industry, and contemporary Arab-American literary products.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH MOHAMED

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by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MARCH 21, 2016: 

Kenneth Garden
Kenneth Garden

51J4NDLuKML._SL160_Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) is one of the most famous Muslim thinkers in history. His autobiographical account, The Deliverer from Error, tells us of his spiritual crisis and transformative experience of journeying, which lead to his subsequent life as a pious recluse. From this experience al-Ghazali wrote his magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, filled with mystical knowledge. At least that is how it has generally been read in the Euro-American tradition.

Kenneth Garden, Associate Professor at Tufts University, reexamines al-Ghazali’s work from an historical hermeneutical in The First Islamic Reviver: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2014). Garden outlines the social and political contexts al-Ghazali’s life demonstrating he was an active participant in Seljuk empire. A close reading of The Revival of the Religious Sciences reveals al-Ghazali’s promotion of a revivalist vision of the tradition, which he called “Science of the Hereafter.” Garden also presents the strategies al-Ghazali utilized to campaign for The Revival of the Religious Sciences, the tactics of his opponents, and the historical context that may force us to rethink the purpose of his autobiography, The Deliverer from Error. In our conversation we discussed al-Ghazali’s social and political life, his relationship to philosophy and mysticism, the connections between his early and later writings, the content of The Revival of the Religious Sciences, accusations against him and his legal trial, and what lead to the widespread popularity and influence of al-Ghazali’s work. Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on AUGUST 25, 2015:

Kecia Ali
Kecia Ali

Muhammad is remembered in a multitude of ways, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. And through each retelling we learn a great deal not only about Muhammad but about the social milieu of the authors. In The Lives of Muhammad (Harvard University Press, 2014), Kecia Ali, Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University, explores how several central components of the Muhammad biographical narrative are reframed by various authors within modern accounts.

Lives of MuhammadWe find that biographers’ notions of historicity changed over time, emphasis on the miraculous and supernatural events in Muhammad’s life are interpreted differently, and Muhammad’s network of relationships, including successors, companions, and family members gain wider interest during this period. We also find that from the nineteenth century onwards, Muhammad is often framed within the history of ‘great men,’ alongside figures like Jesus, Buddha, or Plato. Descriptions of Muhammad’s life cross a range of genres, such as hagiographical, polemical, political, or seeking to facilitate inter-religious dialogue. In our conversation we just begin to scratch the service of this rich book, including Ibn Ishaq, sexual ethics, revisionism, Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, and young wife, Aisha, Orientalist William Muir, polygamy, attempts to counter perceived Western misinterpretations, marital ideals, and contemporary anti-Muslim animus.

LISTEN to interview with ALI

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN and ISLAMiCommentary is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

 

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on FEBRUARY 6, 2015: 

John Renard
John Renard

Islamic theology is generally understood or approached in terms of its systematic or speculative forms. In Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader (University of California Press, 2014), John Renard, Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, has produced a collection of primary sources that thinks through theological deliberation far beyond the narrow strictures of kalam. 51N6Tkri8UL._SL160_This inclusive model is both chronologically expansive and geographically diverse. Renard offers relevant passages from the Qur’an and hadith, the tafsir tradition, narrative histories, manuals of moral direction, texts from spiritual guidance, creedal statements, and political theology.

All of these sources are artfully introduced leading the reader through the diversity of the Islamic tradition. In our conversation we discussed human responsibility, the nature of God, the evaluation of non-Muslim beliefs, what merits community membership, the spiritual journey, functions of poems, stories, and letters, Iblis, mercy and justice, political succession, governance, and questions of leadership, and the social consequences of theological thinking. Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 12, 2014:

Michael Hawkins
Michael Hawkins

For many Muslim communities particular religious identities were formulated or hardened within colonial realities. These types of cultural encounters were structural for the various Muslim tribes in the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and Sulu during the turn of the twentieth century. In Making Moros: Imperial Historicism and American Military Rule in the Philippines’ Muslim South (Northern Illinois University Press, 2012), Michael Hawkins, Assistant Professor of history at Creighton University, demonstrates the dramatic consequences of this short historical moment for Filipino Muslims. Between 1899-1913, professional ethnographers and military officers worked to represent Filipino Muslims as noble primitive warriors. Various communal identities were fused into a singular construction, the Moro. Moro identity was constructed in the American imagination to serve colonial civilizing agendas. Ultimately, this period served as a crucial moment for Filipino Muslim identity and is looked back upon with nostalgia. In our conversation we discussed imperial historicism, colonial legitimacy, taxonomy and classification, capitalism, slavery in American and Moro society, communal remembrance, frontiers, and Islamic authenticity.

LISTEN HERE: INTERVIEW WITH HAWKINS 

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.